Mariano Rajoy fires Catalan regional government

Prime minister dismisses regional president and dissolves parliament in response to independence declaration.

PM Rajoy
Article 155 of the 1978 Spanish Constitution allows for the suspension of Catalonia's autonomy [Reuters]

Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has announced the dismissal of Catalonia‘s President Carles Puigdemont and his cabinet, as well as the dissolution of the regional parliament, as part of the government’s move suspending the Catalan region’s autonomy.

Rajoy made the announcement late on Friday following an emergency meeting with Spain’s central government in response to the Catalan parliament’s declaration of independence.

In dissolving the Catalan parliament, Rajoy also announced the abolition of the office of the regional prime minister and deputy prime minister and called for new regional elections on December 21.

He also announced the suspension of the top officials of Catalonia’s regional police, and the appointment of administrators in the region. 

“The Spanish people have seen a sad day today, where nonsense has prevailed over the law and has demolished democracy in Catalonia,” he declared in a televised address.

“These are sad and anxious times,” Rajoy said, adding that Friday’s vote “ended the Catalan tradition of fostering agreement”.  

Earlier on Friday, the Spanish Senate had approved direct rule in Catalonia after the Catalan regional government’s parliament voted to declare independence.

The vote by Spain’s upper house on Article 155 on Friday allows the government of Rajoy to rule Catalonia directly from Madrid.

It was subsequently published in the official government gazette, meaning Article 155 has been enforced. 

Rajoy held an emergency cabinet meeting for almost three hours to address the crisis. 

Rajoy rallied Spain's parliament on Friday following Catalonia's independence vote [AFP]
Rajoy rallied Spain’s parliament on Friday following Catalonia’s independence vote [AFP]

“Spain is a serious country and a great nation, and we will not tolerate that a few people try to liquidate our constitution,” Rajoy told journalists before the meeting. 

In an earlier post on social media, Rajoy urged “calm” across the country, even as he called the Catalonia parliament vote a “crime”.

Article 155 of the 1978 Spanish constitution allows for the suspension of autonomy of a regional government if it “doesn’t comply with the obligations of the Constitution or other laws it imposes, or acts in a way that seriously undermines the interests of Spain”.

The Constitution states that an absolute majority must approve the article’s use.

Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel Hamid, reporting from Madrid, said that following Rajoy’s announcement, it remains unclear how he will enforce his order and remove Catalonia’s officials from their positions. 

Our correspondent said there was a “sense of urgency” in the Spanish parliament to take action and block the independence move, describing the “apprehension” and “anxiety” in the Spanish capital. 

Article 155 has never been triggered since the 1978 Spanish constitution has been passed, our correspondent noted, adding that because of its “broad” definition, it is open for interpretation between the pro and anti-independence movements.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Pablo Calderon Martinez, lecturer in Spanish studies at Aston University, said the action of Catalonia’s parliament “took everyone by surprise”, and left “more questions than answers”.

Martinez said there is no real alternative than a compromise between Madrid and the leaders in Catalonia to end the “constitutional crisis”.

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Source: Al Jazeera